Hamada General Store: A New Plate Lunch Spot by the Chefs of Home Bar & Grill
Find a kim chee reuben and a Spam-and-egg sandwich with tonkatsu in it.
Framed on the wall inside 885 Queen St., a Star-Bulletin article from 2007 eulogizes the last day of business for H. Hamada Store, a grocery store on this site that closed after four generations of family ran it. Elroy Hamada said it was time to call it quits and “both of his children, Jolene and Brandon, plan to pursue other interests,” reads the story.
Since H. Hamada Store shuttered, the space has been home to an orthopedic supply store, I Love Country Café and Egghead Café. But 12 years later, Brandon Hamada, after pursuing other interests, has returned.
Brandon, along with John Estrella and Neil Nakasone, his partners in Home Bar & Grill, Kanpai and Slammers, have for years delivered some of Honolulu’s best bar food in the late night hours. Now, at Hamada General Store, they’re open for breakfast and lunch, which gets them out in time to enjoy happy hour instead of working it.
The menu is like their greatest hits culled from their years working together, all the way back to The Pineapple Room, where they first met. So you’ll find a version of the kim chee Reuben ($16), which I missed dearly when The Pineapple Room closed, kim chee steak and eggs ($22) from Home Bar days, and an update on the Home Bar negitoro, Hamada’s take on a negitoro sushi roll, now a poke bowl ($18) of ‘ahi mixed with green onion coulis, wasabi oil and crispy rice crackers.
It’s a bit weird eating the kim chee steak and eggs as a plate lunch while it’s still bright out—my memories of it are pūpū-style in the evening thrum of Home Bar & Grill, washed down with beer and shots. So it feels like there’s something missing—but maybe it’s just the setting. Or beer.
Hamada General Store isn’t just a rehash of the past, though. There are new items, such as a Spam-and-egg sandwich ($11), which is really a tonkatsu sandwich where Spam and an over-easy egg are the add-ons. It sounds horrendously over-the-top, but it’s surprisingly refined … ish. The tonkatsu breading plus fried onions add crunch; avocado mousse adds creaminess. For these chefs, even in the diviest of settings, have never left behind their fine dining training.
Nakasone says when they get a writeup of Hamada General Store in the newspaper, they’ll put it up next to the 2007 article. In the meantime, Elroy Hamada monitors and tidies the parking lot outside while his son, who left Home to return home, cooks inside.
Open Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., 885 Queen St., (808) 379-1992, hamadageneralstore.com
Dine on signature dishes from award-winning chefs at the 2019 Hale ‘Aina Awards Celebration presented by First Hawaiian Bank on Sept. 7, 2019, on the pool deck of the ‘Alohilani Resort. Tickets are on sale now.